Mark Attard’s tough-as-nails, HJ Holden is the physical manifestation of the pro street dreams of his youth
Hardcore street machiners always hold fond memories of their first build, and Melbourne’s Mark Attard is a walking, talking example. He’s got a clutch of stout cars in the shed, but this HJ Monaro GTS replica is especially close to his heart, as it’s inspired by his earliest project.
“When I was 21, I built an HJ Premier, which was a really popular car back in the day,” Mark says. “It ran a 10.90, which was really quick for a street car 20 years ago. I wanted it to be an angry pro street car, but, being a young bloke, the funds just weren’t there.”
Mark’s life moved on and brought with it a bunch of other killer cars, including a turbo VE Maloo, but the flame for a brutally tough HJ never left him. That brings us to the car you see here, though it initially looked nothing like the Absinth Yellow GTS replica you’re admiring now.
“This was a silver Premier with a big-block in it, owned by a bloke called Anton Krajina, who raced it in Super Gas,” Mark explains. “It was a complete, driving car, and in the first week I owned it, I ripped it down to a bare shell and changed absolutely everything. In the end, I used none of it bar the engine, but it was engineered with the big-block, so it was a great starting point.
Having dreamed of building this car for so many years, Mark knew exactly what parts he needed and what work had to be done. “I wanted to build the car the way I’d always meant do my HJ as a young bloke,” he explains. “I knew exactly where I wanted to go with this car, and because of this and the help of my amazing crew of mates, we were able to knock the build out in just six months. That really blows people’s minds when I tell them.”
Any pro street build worth its salt needs to sit tough, so Jamie from Full Flight Engineering sorted a pair of mini-tubs, added a six-point rollcage and parachute mount, fitted the fuel cell, and relocated the battery to the boot. The sky-high stance that stock HJs suffer from has been corrected with Viking coil-overs from Castlemaine Rod Shop up front and Gazzard Brothers coil-over struts out back, with a Gazzard anti-roll bar keeping the big more-door straight and true out of the hole. Once the dirty work was done with the grinders and welders, Steve Vinogradac at Tullamarine Collision Centre got the body blocked, smoothed the engine bay, and applied the Absinth Yellow with matching factory black-outs. Mark reckons he always knew the Prem was going to wind up yellow, but it was his good mate Richard Schembri who suggested the eye-popping Absinth, which turned out to be the perfect shade.
While the shell was copping work, Mark and his mate Ali Sead pulled the Dart Big M fat-block down and rebuilt it into a 582ci monster, chock full of all the herbs needed to run eights aspirated. This includes a Dart steel crank, custom CP slugs, Oliver steel rods, bushed BAM lifters and a custom solid-roller Bullet cam.
Up top, deep-breathing CNC-ported Brodix BB3 heads and an Edelbrock Super Victor single-plane manifold are crowned by an APD billet four-barrel carb for street duties. This is switched over to a BRE Dominator at the track, as Mark runs E85 on the road but VP109 drum unleaded at the strip.
“It’s got around 14:1 compression, so it’s a radical engine,” Mark enthuses. “We can’t get the car to hook up at the track, but it’ll go eights. We ran 9.00@151mph only leaving at 1800rpm, but it’s got a 6000rpm AllFast converter in it.”
All up, the big-inch rat motor has stomped out 1048hp on the engine dyno and 871hp at the hubs, and then there is also the small matter of the engine being set up for nitrous.
“The gas is a twin-plate progressive shot that can do up to 700hp, but I’m only looking to run 350hp at first,” Mark says. “But I want to run an eight naturally aspirated before hitting the gas.”
Mark made sure the HJ can handle all he throws at it with a transbraked, reverse-pattern TH400 and 3.5-inch chrome-moly tailshaft. Down the back is a braced nine-inch third member rocking 35-spline billet Moser axles, a Strange Engineering alloy bolt-through centre, full spool and 4.11 gears.
While it sports nuclear-grade hardware and show-quality detailing, this six-month build was completed just by Mark and a small crew of mates in his shed. “We built the car at my house, and the only thing it left my shed for was paint,” he says. “I’ve got a really good network of people around me to help with these projects, and I can’t thank them enough; it’s been an absolute pleasure with this car and I’ve had a ball doing it.”
Despite being destined for the eight-second zone, this big brawler is a true street machine, and Mark loves nothing more than loading the family on board the HJ and hitting the mean streets of Melbourne. “I drive with my family everywhere in this car, through the city and all over the place,” he explains. “Whenever we get a chance, we’ll go for a hit in it – this car gets driven!”
Story: Iain Kelly
Photos: Chris Thorogood